Credit Repair Program -- Step 9.  Accounts Belonging to Ex-Spouse

All accounts jointly held by both marriage partners should be legally resolved in a divorce, but unfortunately, this is often not done.  A competent divorce attorney should help you resolve these issues during the divorce.  Sometimes the credit bureaus continue to co-mingle a couple's credit reports after the divorce (See Sample Letter 4).

Other common problems are as follows:

(1)  Wife got the house, but the husband is still listed as co-owner.  When the wife files bankruptcy, the ex-husband's credit is completely ruined and the mortgage company comes after him for payment (as they legally can do).

(2)  Wife got custody of the credit card with husband still listed as joint accountholder.  When wife doesn't pay, the credit card company comes after ex-husband (as they legally can do).

Your creditors were not a party to your divorce and are not bound by your divorce decree.  At sometime in the past you agreed in writing to pay them X amount of money.  Although your divorce settlement specifies that your ex will pay that bill and you will pay this bill, your creditors will go after either party if they aren't paid.  This is why your attorney should have taken care of these matters for you.

To protect your credit rating, you need to do the following:

(1)  Close out joint credit card accounts.  Notify your ex-spouse that you will be doing this.  Send the credit card company a copy of your divorce decree by certified mail and tell them you aren't going to be responsible for any future debt incurred on that card and you want the account officially closed.  If your ex-spouse wants to apply for an account with the company, then he or she is free to do that on her own.  If you think your ex-spouse is capable of ugly behavior, check periodically to make sure the account has remained closed.

By law, a creditor cannot close a joint account because of a change in marital status, but can do so at the request of either spouse. A creditor, however, does not have to change joint accounts to individual accounts. The creditor can require you to reapply for credit on an individual basis and then, based on your new application, extend or deny you credit.

(2)  If your ex got the house in the divorce settlement, try to get your name off of the mortgage loan.  In the case of a mortgage or home equity loan, a lender is likely to require refinancing to remove a spouse from the obligation.

If you still have joint accounts with an ex-spouse, you should make sure that the bills your ex-spouse agreed to pay are, in fact, being paid.  Don't let debts that you are obligated to pay go unpaid just because your spouse is supposed to be paying it under the terms of the divorce settlement.  If an ex-spouse won't pay, then you have to pay to protect your credit rating.  You can pursue collection efforts against your former spouse to recover the money you are out.  You can use the divorce decree in small claims court as proof that the other party agreed to be responsible for the debt.

Step 10: Unauthorized Inquiries
Credit Repair Steps:   1     2     3     4     5     6     7     8     9     10     11     12     13     14   
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